What Is Carrageenan?
Carrageenan is a carbohydrate structure that is derived from red edible Seaweed. The process to create Carrageenan from seaweed involves combining it with Alkali.
Carrageenan has multiple spellings, but they are almost always the same ingredient. Examples of alternative spelling include Carageenan, Carrageenen, and Carrigeenin.
Carrageenan offers little to no nutrition, including a negligible portion of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Also, Carrageenan does not offer any notable quantity of any required vitamins or minerals.
Carrageenan can be found in human food as well as dog food. Examples of products that may contain Carrageenan include Ice Cream, Milkshakes, and other desserts.
Carrageenan In Dog Food
Carrageenan is a common ingredient in canned, wet, or moist dog food as well as cat food.
Some research says that at one point in time as much as seventy percent of commercially produced canned dog food included Carrageenan in varying quantities. Currently, this percent is estimated to be lower, but it is still significant.
Carrageenan’s purpose in dog food is to act as a thickening agent to bind the ingredients together and to give the food a consistent texture. Thickening agents are important in canned pet food as if they are absent this can cause the protein-rich ingredients present to become unappealing or to have an unpleasant texture.
Thickening agents can also be described as binding agents, emulsifiers, gelling agents, or stabilizers. While these terms mean slightly different things, it is safe to bundle them together as they are very similar.
Alternative thickening agents or binding agents include starches, like Potatoes and Tapioca, or gum-like ingredients such as Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum.
Risks of Carrageenan
Some studies have shown that Carrageenan can cause Gastrointestinal Inflammation as well as increased rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and in extreme cases, malignant tumors. These malignant tumors can be cancerous.
A by-product that is produced from this process is poligeenan. Poligeenan is a low-molecular form of Carrageenan which can be harmful. Poligeenan is supposed to be separated and removed. Poligeenan is the cause of the symptoms mentioned above.
The symptoms are due to the immune response some dogs will inhibit after digesting Carrageenan. This immune reaction is the cause of the inflammation. Sustained inflammation is then the cause of the more severe side effects.
There are strong opinions by some pet food bloggers and enthusiasts that Carrageenan has no place in dog food and would go as far to say that it should be banned.
One example to support this sentiment is that Carrageenan has been banned for use in baby formula or baby food in the European Union. While this ban was precautionary and not fully substantiated, it does give a strong suggestion that Carrageenan could be harmful.
Dog Food Brands That Use Carrageenan
Carrageenan is used by a number of dog food brands. Examples include FreshPet, Wellness, Newman’s Own, Nutro, Purina, and Hills Science Diet.
However, Carrageenan’s use has seen some decrease as some brands have chosen to move away from it and use alternatives that are deemed safer or more natural.
Some brands have gone as far as to display or advertise that their products are Carrageenan free.
If you wish to avoid Carrageenan or other thickening agents entirely, then it may be wise not to feed your dog canned or wet dog food. While dry dog food is far from perfect, it does not require thickening agents such as Carrageenan and instead relies on vegetable ingredients like Legumes and Starches.